A prolific writer and keen observer of Vancouver’s real estate scene has died.
Frank O’Brien, the long-time editor of Western Investor and senior real estate writer with Glacier Media, passed away on Dec. 1 following a brief battle with cancer. He was 74.
“Frank was entirely invested in the newspaper game, the way many of us were from the mid-20th and on into the 21st century,” said former colleague Tim Renshaw, who worked with O’Brien for nearly 20 years. “He was invariably and unflappably polite, personable and positive in that dedication.”
“His career and passion never lead his writing and editing skills astray,” his wife Charon O’Brien said. “He embraced all challenges in his career and life with a vengeance to be the best he could always be.”
O’Brien’s personable demeanour and dedication to his work continued until a few days before he entered critical care, managing to complete the December issue of Western Investor.
“He was dedicated to informing, enlightening, entertaining and challenging readers,” Renshaw said. “He will be sorely missed by anyone who had the good fortune to work with him or spend time with him when he was not working. Although, he was almost always working.”
A three-week vacation to Mexico last winter was O’Brien’s first extended vacation in many years, but he and Charon had lived on the Sunshine Coast since 1990, working remotely, raising a family and creating a life where other vacationed.
Besides Western Investor, which he edited since 2000, O’Brien contributed to a host of publications in the real estate and construction sector for more than 42 years. A prolific writer, he often wrote under the pen name ‘Dermot Mack’ (among others), the diversity of bylines covering his prodigious output.
O’Brien was born in Almonte, Ontario, in 1949, the eldest son of eight children. Graduating from Algonquin College in the early 1970s, he soon headed west, drawn by the West Coast's temperate climate and beaches. For many years, his family recalls, he was the first one to swim in the spring, and last to dip in the ocean in the winter.
O’Brien and Charon married in 1983. They were united by their creativity, love of the ocean (she is an avid outrigger paddler), and together they raised their children Kevan and Dominique.
“Frank was a dedicated husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle and great uncle who loved and embraced his family and friends worldwide,” Charon said.
“We made some beautiful memories in his last weeks with our family and friends at home and at the hospital” their daughter Dominique Gruber said.
These included a beautiful, quick, bedside wedding ceremony for his son Kevan and fiance Eva, at which Frank was to be best man in 2025.
The life of any party, according to Gruber, Frank had also recently completed a novel that the family hopes to publish in the new year.
“Frank’s words and songs will remain as an eternal tide of memories, touching the hearts of those who were fortunate to share in his passion and love for life,” Kevan said.
O’Brien was predeceased by his parents Joseph and Frances O’Brien, and his sisters Rita (Ron) and Cathy. He is survived by his wife Charon, son Kevan (Eva) and daughter Dominique (Casey) Gruber and grandchildren Jack, Reed and Kirby Gruber, as well as his sisters Marie (Jim), Pat (Ken) and Noreen (Peter), and brothers, Larry and Gary (Maggie) and many nieces, nephews and great-nieces and nephews.
The family thanks the doctors, nurses and staff of Sechelt Hospital for their assistance. A memorial service will be held in spring 2024. Memorial donations may be made to a fund established for the family at GoFundMe.